NEPCA will meet on the campus of Providence College in Providence, RI October 24-25, 2014.
For conference information, click on the FALL CONFERENCE tab above. This will take you to a page where you find all the materials you need. Scroll down to “How Do I Submit a Proposal?”
If you’re not psyched already for NEPCA’s upcoming fall conference in Providence, RI, the New York Times gives you reason to get excited. Here’s a link to its story on visitingProvidence.
Thee Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) announces that the Fall edition of Celebrity Culture and Social Inquiry Vol. 4 has been published.
• Dr Mira Moshe’s anthology The Emotions Industry featured on Nova Publishers home page under the “What’s Special for September” section. Relations between fame and emotions theorized in Chapter 12.
• Dr Nandana Bose’s latest contributions in celebrity studies and Bollywood stardom
• Dr Anita Krajnc raises $36,000 in 3 weeks for public education and activism
• Critical and inspirational talk on the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
• CFP: From Robson Green to Sean Bean: Mapping Northern Stardom on Popular British Television
• CFP: Be your selfie: identity, aesthetics and power in digital self-representation
• CFP: Consuming/Culture: Women and Girls in Print and Pixels
• Cary Grant Comes Home For the Weekend Festival | 11-12 October 2014 | Bristol, UK
• Stardom and Fandom panel
• Teaching with selfies: new Creative Commons syllabus
• Doctoral Survey – Kim Kardashian: Hollywood
• Industrial Approaches to Media: A Methodological Gateway to Industry Studies
You can now access it at: http://us3.campaign-archive2.com/?u=8d968a451671b45aa780b5674&id=919d7e4404
The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress seeks applicants for Kluge Fellowships in Digital Studies. The fellowship supports research related to the impact of the digital revolution on society, culture, and international relations using the Library’s collections and resources.
Full information on eligibilty, tenure, stipend, and expectations is on the Kluge Center website: http://www.loc.gov/kluge/fellowships/kluge-digital.html
The fellowship is open to scholars worldwide. The application deadline is December 6, 2014.
Questions? Please contact:
The Kluge Fellowship in Digital Studies
The John W. Kluge Center / Office of Scholarly Programs
Library of Congress, LJ-120
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20540-4860
tel. 202 707-3302; fax 202 707-3595
If you have not yet registered for the fall NEPCA conference, please do so ASAP. Although you can register in person the process goes much more smoothly if you register in advance. Remember, you can pay by check or via PayPal.
Hotel rooms are filling fast, so book your room now.
Marvel Feature Films edited by Robert Moses Peaslee, Matthew McEniry, and Robert G. Weiner, seeks contributions for said volume.
The recent release of Guardians of the Galaxy marks the penultimate film in the so-called second “phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a group of big-budget tentpole films that include Marvel’s The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Solider, Thor: Dark World, Iron Man 1-3, and the Incredible Hulk. Meanwhile, other studios like Sony and Fox have had success with films based on Marvel properties such as the X-Men and Spider-Man. The editors seek essays that discuss Marvel feature length films, and while we will consider essays that deal with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more recent films, we are particularly interested in those films that have not received a lot of scholarly attention (including television and animated features). They are also interested in work dealing with films produced when certain characters were Marvel properties (like Transformers, G. I. Joe, and Conan). Please note they are not interested in television series, per se, but rather the full-length films produced from them. They will also consider essays on those unauthorized foreign films based on Marvel characters like Turkish Captain America/Spider-Man, etc.
Upon acceptance final essays will be due on Feb 15, 2015.
A Working People: A History of African American Workers Since Emancipation
Steven A. Reich. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013.
In 1982, William H. Harris published The Harder We Run, a concise narrative of black workers since the end of slavery that has been used in scores of undergraduate labor and African-American history courses. Steven Reich’s A Working People is a worthy successor to Harris’s outdated work. It is a didactic, accessible overview of African-American workers since emancipation that provides a solid base for general readers and suggestive research possibilities for those wishing to probe more deeply. A strong bibliographic essay and thirty-six pages of primary source documents bolster research efforts.
Reich, an associate professor of history at James Madison University, is known for his work on the Great Migration, the six million-person exodus from the South to the North undertaken by African Americans from 1910 to 1970. Although Reich pays attention to Southern workers, four of the book’s six chapters deal more extensively with Northern workers. Reich’s justification for this is familiar to scholars of black labor history: the lost promises of Reconstruction. Social and political decisions to forgo land redistribution, continued military occupation of the South, or a thorough political reorganization of the region produced what historian Eric Foner dubbed an “unfinished revolution.” As Reich shows, Southern African- American workers–including longshoremen, laundresses, timber workers, and miners–struggled heroically at times, but terror, political disenfranchisement, and poverty were the salient features for postwar Southern black workers.
Dreams of a more open society and the lure of industrial labor lured legions of African Americans to the North, where they found work easier to obtain than justice. The North was no Promised Land of tolerance and black families found themselves segregated by custom rather than by law. They were generally denied desirable jobs in favor of hard, dirty, dangerous and undercompensated work. Even those jobs, however, were better than could be obtained in the South. Whenever job markets were glutted, as they were during the 1920s and during both world wars, African Americans trekked northward.
In many respect, the modern civil rights movement was stimulated as much by northern as southern racism. Reich documents the deplorable record of organized labor in advancing anything that resembled biracial solidarity. Reich is somewhat myopic in that he too closely identifies the pre-New Deal labor movement with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), most of whose affiliates excluded black workers altogether. He spends time discussing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), a truly remarkable organization, but Reich could show the roots of biracial organizing by looking outside the AFL. The BSCP, for example, peaked at 15,000 members; the Knights of Labor–which is not discussed–organized 90,000 black workers in the 1880s. In like fashion, the radical Industrial Workers of the World organized tens of thousands of black workers, as did the Communist Party.
When he hits the 1930s, Reich corrects his inattention to militant organizing when looking at the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and the efforts of packinghouse workers, miners, steelworkers, and autoworkers. The United Automobile Workers, in fact, often cooperated with A. Philip Randolph to form the voice of conscience within the merged AFL-CIO after 1955; it also threw financial and logitical support behind the civil rights movement. It was not enough. Reich gives a succinct overview of Herbert Hill’s bitter critique of entrenched racism within the AFL-CIO and, by the late 1960s, even the UAW found itself the target of black-led revolutionary union movements. Only then did organized labor begin making the institutional adjustments necessary to align racial policies with outward claims of being progressive organizations.
Reich’s story of black labor thus far does not have a happy ending. Recessions, deindustrialization, and the coming of a globalized post-industrial economy sandbagged the transformation of unions and workplaces (the latter compelled by decades of civil rights and affirmative legislation). Reich offers Gary, Indiana, as a vivid example of a city that went from a beacon of racial promise to a Rust Belt nightmare within a single generation. Moreover, as economic security grew more precarious for all Americans, many one-time allies became rivals. Reich ends his book by reflecting upon what changed and what did not between now and 1968, when the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Memphis in support of striking sanitation workers. He praises the overall “opening” (141) of American workplaces but remains cognizant of the “the persistence of high rates of unemployment… the proliferation of bad jobs, and seemingly entrenched income inequality…. (166). An unfinished revolution indeed.
Robert E. Weir
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Donn Piatt: Gadfly of the Gilded Age. By Peter Bridges. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2012.
The word ‘gadfly’ references those whose probing questions challenge constituted authority. It can also mean an annoyance of either insect or human form. Gilded Age journalist Donn Piatt (1819-91) was a social critic and a crank–the sort of man who made nervous friends and powerful enemies, both of whom sometimes wondered if he was fully human. His personal hubris was that he often failed to pick allies and foes wisely and displayed a penchant for attacking the perceived shortcomings of friends with the same vitriol normally reserved for one’s opponents.
Former Foreign Service officer Peter Bridges presents a well-researched portrait of a man who is often hard to stomach. Piatt’s unusually spelled first name was a product of his Huguenot heritage, and a modern psychologist might suggest he also inherited a persecution complex from his French Protestant ancestors. He made his greatest impact in newspapers, especially The Capital, published in Washington, DC. Piatt fancied himself a corruption-hating editor and investigative reporter, though “editorialist” probably better describes his partisan slash-and-burn approach to politics. Although Piatt was deeply opposed to slavery during the antebellum period, he was also a lifelong Democrat who found Whigs annoying and Republicans contemptible. He was especially rough on Republicans and fellow Ohioans U. S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes, but a list of former Piatt friends that came to despise him includes Thomas Nast, Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman, each known to be contrarians in their own right.
Bridges is occasionally critical of Piatt, but he also clearly admires him and finds him humorous, both judgments open to question. Bridges too often takes Piatt at face value and rationalizes his pig-headedness; he also shortchanges analysis through a gossipy writing style that induces abrupt continuity breaks. One longs for deeper critiques of some of Piatt’s more ridiculous opinions, among them that Jefferson Davis was more honorable than Grant, and that the greatest Union Civil War generals were George H. Thomas and William Rosecrans! Piatt had strong opinions on many subjects, but decades after the Civil War he rehashed tactics and command decisions that few Americans could recall. A dispassionate assessment might be that by the end of the Grant administration, Piatt had become the classic Gilded Age “kicker.”
Piatt was also a lobbyist and a political self-seeker who longed for a diplomatic posting, but what does it tell us when the only political plum he ever received came from Grover Cleveland: a $40-per-annum appointment as postmaster for Mac-o-cheek, Ohio, near where Piatt erected a family castle? (And what does it say when Piatt felt this post as conferred the gravitas necessary for making suggestions on how to improve the postal service?) Bridges admits that Piatt was “muckraker” and a “gadfly,” but also insists that his “years of useful service to the American republic” were analogous to those of Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, and Upton Sinclair (195). This strikes me as overly charitable, given that those individuals backed assertions with evidence far more substantial than heated rhetoric. To be sure, Piatt exposed hypocrisy and corruption during the Gilded Age, though it wasn’t all that taxing to unearth malfeasance in the Grant administration, nor was it page one news that members of Congress were embroiled in graft.
In 1889, when the 69-year-old Piatt asked Mark Twain to contribute to Belford’s Magazine, Twain simply ignored his letter. By then Donn Piatt had already been confined to the margins where most Gilded Age historians store him. When I think of under-examined Gilded Age editors and reporters, my thoughts run more toward John Swinton, T. Thomas Fortune, Myron Colony, and Patrick and Mary Ford. Donn Piatt has his fascinations, but he should be studied as a transitional figure in journalism’s shift from partisanship to (outward) objectivity. He was ultimately less a gadfly than a limited lifespan fruit fly.
Robert E. Weir
University of Massachusetts Amherst